She wanted a job, but at 55, no one would hire her

She may not have a business administration degree, but that won't stop Park from applying to jobs she wants. Radius Community Centre / Supplied

After her marriage failed last fall at age 55, Wendy Park needed to get a job.

“Life just happened,” the Saskatchewan grandmother told Global News, adding she got a job quickly, but her contract was terminated 12 days before Christmas.

“I don’t necessarily blame the employer because I was still an emotional mess from the breakup and in an element of the job where I was not up to their standards.”

Finding work after her dismissal was next to impossible, said Park, adding her confidence quickly started to deteriorate.

“Everything that I had was old-school … I found myself thinking, ‘I’m not capable. I’m not worthy.'”

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That’s when she found WorkSHIFT, a Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers (TIOW) program for mature jobseekers at the Radius Community Centre for Education and Employment Training. Now halfway done her eight-week program, Park said she feels more confident with her revamped resume and cover letter.

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A photo of Wendy Park (bottom right) with some of the WorkSHIFT job seekers at Radius Community Centre in Saskatoon. Radius Community Centre / Supplied

“Honestly, it’s the best decision I ever made,” she said. “Maybe my expectations are quite high right now, but I really feel like I’m coming out of this beyond my dreams.”

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She may not have a business administration degree, but that won’t stop Park from applying to jobs she wants.

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“I do have life skills. I do have transferable skills. And it’s something to be proud of, not to be ashamed of.”

The Saskatchewan government announced earlier this week it’s moving forward with its 2020 TIOW program.

Doug Rain, regional director of the labour market services branch within the Ministry of Immigration and Career Training, said the program is aimed at people aged 55 to 64. However, they do have clients older than that.

“We procured some service partners to help us deliver [TIOW] programs across the province … to assess their employability, skills and look at what their gaps may be in terms of either remaining in the labour market or re-engaging,” Rain said.

The programs are intake-based. Participants receive a portion of classroom training around work-job readiness and some job-search skills and then they get moved into work placements.

“It’s an investment of $1.4 million [in 2020] and that is a blend of funding that is for program delivery and … while the clients or participants are engaged in the classroom training or in their work placement, we provide a training allowance, which essentially parallels minimum wage,” Rain said.
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TIOW is now in its second year and Rain said he believes it’s working well.

“We base success on, certainly, acquiring employment but we also have success indicators around people acquiring skills that are going to help lead them to employment, even if it’s on their own after the program but we’re seeing an excess of half of these clients obtaining employment,” Rain said.

Government officials said they anticipate at least 186 participants will take part in the program this year.

For Park, she can’t wait to get back into the workforce.

“I’ve got opportunities and I just really feel great about this whole situation. Things only get better 55 and up. They don’t have to get worse.”

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A total of seven TIOW projects across the province were selected for 2020 and can be found at the following locations:

  • Radius Community Centre (Saskatoon);
  • YWCA Saskatoon;
  • SaskAbilities (Saskatoon);
  • Prince Albert Métis Women Association;
  • 3A Academy and Consulting (Lloydminster);
  • Keewatin Community Development Association (Meadow Lake); and
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Regina).

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